Texas trooper’s shooter previously threatened to kill police

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — On Aug. 3, 2000, around 10:30 a.m., Texas DPS Trooper Randall “Randy” Vetter stopped a 72-year-old driver for not wearing a seatbelt near Interstate 35 in Hays County. Before Vetter even had time to approach him, the driver, Melvin Hale, got out of his vehicle and opened fire with a rifle, striking Vetter once in the head. Hale stepped over Trooper Vetter’s body to use his patrol car radio to call in the shooting.

Hale was taken into custody after a short standoff with officers. Vetter, 28, died in the hospital four days later, leaving behind a wife, Cynthia, and an 8-month-old son, Robert.

Hale pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life. He died in prison in 2008.

Melvin Hale

Local officers were familiar with Hale because he once said he would kill the next officer he met, but that information never got to Trooper Vetter. His threats to law enforcement were documented in one department, but that information was never shared because no system existed to connect different departments.

In the years after the murder, determined to improve communication between law enforcement agencies, two of Vetter’s colleagues created COPsync, the country’s only law enforcement real-time, information-sharing network. According to the company managing the system, more than 550 Texas law enforcement agencies now use COPsync, which shares public and non-adjudicated information with all officers using the network. Vetter’s widow, Cynthia, serves as Director of Media and Investor Relations for COPsync. She supports legislation to mandate information sharing between law enforcement agencies.

In 2001, the Texas legislature also responded to Vetter’s death by passing a law requiring the creation of the Threats Against Peace Officers (TAPO) database through the Department of Public Safety. The database contains information on people who have made threats against peace officers.

Local agencies are responsible for reporting and verifying any useful information. With TAPO, a DPS trooper (or any other law enforcement officer) can call in either a license plate number before a traffic stop or a name during a traffic stop. If the license plate number is associated with someone who has made a credible threat against a peace officer, other officers are alerted.

As of March 2017, there are 1,297 active Threats Against Peace Officers records in the database.

This article is part of KXAN Investigates’ Fallen project. Watch it here.
Fallen examines the role mental health played leading to officers’ murders and the necessary solutions that could prevent future deaths.

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